The latest addition to the Canavan family is due on March 20.
The imminent arrival of the second and very definitely last child I father means, depressingly, there is certain stuff that has to be done.
Top of the list is the back bedroom. Ever since Mrs Canavan discovered last summer that she was pregnant, she has been asking me to clear it out to allow us to decorate and move our older child Mary into it - so the new baby can have the nursery which Mary currently occupies.
For the last nine months, Mrs Canavan – after reading yet more toddler-related tosh – has been preaching the importance of moving Mary BEFORE the new baby arrives.
‘That way,’ says Mrs Canavan, po-faced and sounding as if she’s auditioning for the role of some kind of baby guru, ‘Mary won’t feel like she’s being pushed out.’
I sort of half-listened to all this over the course of several months, nodded my head, and said vaguely, “yes dear, I’ll get round to it soon”.
Back in August there seemed to be loads of time. Now, two weeks before the due date, there seems slightly less time to get things done.
On Saturday, I decided the task couldn’t be put off any longer – or, put another way, Mrs Canavan held a sharp kitchen knife to my throat and said that if I didn’t do it she would chop my head off.
It was a compelling argument and so, reluctantly, and keen on my head remaining attached to my neck for the foreseeable, I entered the back bedroom armed with a pile of bin liners and a pair of heavy-duty Marigolds.
Now, as I’m sure you’ve experienced, it isn’t until you have to clear a room of its contents that you realise just how much is in a room.
There were, for starters, shoved under the bed and in various wardrobes, dozens of boxes packed full of utterly useless rubbish we have no need for and which I’ve no idea why we carefully packed into boxes in the first place.
In these I found an array of junk ranging from old newspaper cuttings (I have a habit of keeping important iconic front pages; Barak Obama’s inauguration as president, the 9/11 attacks on America, the death of Jeremy Beadle), old school reports, packets of paracetamol a decade beyond their use-by date, and many unwanted Christmas gifts (such as - this was a stocking filler from my dear mater - a three-in-one foldaway pocket knife that can be used for, to quote the packaging, “cutting anything from branches to cheese”.
The back bedroom also contains 12 guitars (Mrs Canavan just cannot understand why a man needs so many guitars, but in my defence I say the same about women and hairclips), a piano, a banjo, mandolin, flute, tambourine and a wide selection of mouth organs.
‘You’ll need to get rid of all those,’ she said.
I responded by telling her in no uncertain terms that if the instruments go, I go too. I can tell this worried her for she replied, ‘fine, that suits me’.
“You know I like my music,” I tell her. “The instruments are fine where they are.”
‘No Steven (I know it’s serious when she speaks to me like that), they cannot stay where they are. This is going to be Mary’s room.’
“But it’s not as if Mary has to have the whole room, she’s tiny,” I protest. “Surely it doesn’t matter if there are a few musical instruments in with her?”
But Mrs Canavan tells me the instruments are going.
The upshot of all this is that I spent seven hours – SEVEN HOURS – on Sunday clearing the room.
First I hauled all my instruments up to the attic, aside from the piano which, after enlisting the help of three burly male neighbours, we eventually managed to drag downstairs to the lounge, though not without almost tragically and fatally squashing the cat. (He made the mistake of running up the stairs just as we were inching what was an incredibly heavy piano down and escaped death by a fraction; which was slightly disappointing as I could have buried him in the garden and made a headstone adorned with the words: ‘Here lies Percy, killed on the third stair up by a Yamaha Clavinova’).
I then began the task of filling 15 plastic boxes (Mrs Canavan drove to Tesco specially to buy more) with items we wanted to keep. I discovered at this point that I’m not very good at throwing things away. When it came to the newspaper cuttings, for instance, I suddenly didn’t like the idea of chucking the Obama front page, so I neatly folded it and placed it in the box. Then when it came to my mother’s absolutely naff three-in-one folding knife – still pristine in its original unopened packet – I thought, ‘what if I’m at a dinner party and all the knifes are in the dishwasher and we need something to cut the cheese with?’. So that too went in a box.
It was a long and arduous task heaving all the boxes up the rickety wooden ladder to the loft and it was with beads of sweat dripping from my weary brow just before midnight that I finally called it a day and slumped into the bath, where, so tired, I fell asleep and woke up coughing 15 minutes later after coming close to choking to death on Radox bubble bath.
Worse still there is more yet to do. The wardrobe, now empty, needs dismantling, as does the bed. Mrs Canavan has warned me it must be done by the end of the weekend.
If I’d have known all this when we tried for a baby I’d never have bothered.
Another joy of getting older
One of the main downsides of growing old, I’m finding, is sleeping badly.
The reason for my poor sleep is because I keep waking up needing the toilet. I’m not sure if I’m drinking more or the size of my bladder is shrinking, or both, but I am, at the moment, averaging two trips to the loo a night.
In fact last week, on one occasion, I went four times in one night and worked out the next morning I’d spent more time on the lavatory than I had in the bedroom.
On the plus side, I am unerringly regular. Four nights on the trot last week - and this is totally true - I woke between 3.20 and 3.25am needing a wee. Even the cat knows my routine and has taken to waiting outside the bedroom door at that time, so he can miow for food as soon as he sees me emerge.
Other than giving up drinking water beyond 5pm each evening, or perhaps having a bladder transplant and getting a larger one, I’m not sure what the answer is.
The joys of growing old.